The Renovation Wave is a key initiative launched by the European Commission in the context of the European Green Deal and the Recovery Package. Providing the potential for economic recovery, alongside the much-needed improvement of energy efficiency, the initiative will play an important role in Europe’s energy transition. Bioenergy is the leading solution driving the renewable sector and supporting the decarbonisation of heat production in Europe.

Following the publication of the European Commission’s strategic Communication and Action Plan on the Renovation Wave in October of this year, Bioenergy Europe were delighted to welcome key stakeholders from both policy and industry. Providing a coherent overview of the role that the Renovation Wave will play in Europe’s decarbonisation, each guest brough specific knowledge and information from varying perspectives within the domains of policy and industry. Focusing on the role of renewable solutions in decarbonising the heating & cooling sector, and improving air quality, the Renovation Wave offered a lens through which these crucial synergies could be examined.

Our first guest, Karlis Goldstein (Energy Efficiency Advisor, DG ENER European Commission), opened the webinar with a comprehensive overview of the Renovation Wave initiative providing insights into its role in supporting the European Commission’s ambitious climate targets. The EU building sector is the single largest energy consumer in Europe, responsible for approximately 40% of energy consumption and over 36% of GHG emissions, with over ¾ of fuel used in the sector continuing to come from fossil sources. In line with the Paris Agreement, the Renovation Wave aims to achieve a net carbon zero economy in the next 30 years, cementing Europe’s role as leaders in renewable energy solutions. Buildings are not only a key contributor to Europe’s GHG profile, but they are highly durable. Estimating that 85% of the current stock will still exist in 30 years’ time, €275 billion of investment will be needed annually to increase the existing stocks’ energy efficiency.

But building renovation alone is not enough. Goldstein highlighted the essential role that renewables will play in supporting the initiative and achieving 2050 carbon neutrality. Bioenergy is an essential addition to the energy mix, providing an affordable, readily available, and viable solution. Moreover, with the Renovation Wave placing a significant focus on the role of neighbourhoods and communities in supporting the energy transition, bioenergy becomes even more prevalent.

Following the initiative’s overview, complementary insight was provided from industry representatives. Annalisa Paniz (Director of General Affairs and International Relations, AIEL) dived into greater depth on the role of individual consumer behaviour and technological turnover in supporting the renovation wave. Consumer behaviour is central to the success of any initiative, and AIEL have been working to communicate the important role of biomass in the decarbonisation of the heating & cooling sector, at a national level. Technological advancement in the domestic heating sector has provided great support for the transition to renewables, with the modernisation of older appliances both increasing energy efficiency and air quality. Through education schemes like “scrap and educate”, AIEL provide an exemplar of the work that bioenergy stakeholders are carrying out at a national level. Working with end-users to increase awareness on the environmental importance of biomass in a comprehensive way not only ensures that large scale initiatives, like the Renovation Wave are supported, but that change is felt by householders through individual action.

Kamila Waciega (Director of Energy and Public Affairs Department, Veolia) shed light on the world of district heating and its role in the energy transition. The replacement of coal with sustainable biomass provides a key tool with which district heating networks can move away from fossil fuels and support the Renovation Wave’s carbon neutrality ambitions. The synergies existing between renewable energy solutions and energy efficiency are essential for a successful and sustainable energy transition. While the Renovation Wave recognises the importance of local approaches, the role of district heating should not be overlooked, particularly its capacity in supporting solutions that are not feasible at an individual level. Sectoral integration will play an important role in this way: energy efficiency and renewable solutions are two sides of the same coin, both necessary for the Renovation Wave’s success.

Following these opening statements, Bioenergy Europe opened the floor to questions, with the panel addressing some of the challenges and opportunities that the Renovation Wave poses to the bioenergy sector: be that how Europe might address its over-reliance on fossil fuels, how the energy transition must support the most disadvantaged and fragile households, and the role of individual solutions in improving air quality.

Goldstein acknowledged that the heating & cooling sector has an essential role to play in ensuring accessible and local solutions, underscored by the Renovation Wave’s neighbourhood and community-based approach. Smart and flexible resources, accompanied by case-by-case prescriptions, both increases energy efficiency and avoids energy-poverty. Energy systems should adopt a citizen-first approach, with system integration relying on the efficient use of readily available and viable resources. In many European territories this could mean biomass in the form of wood logs, and for others biomethane. The Renovation Wave will establish more granular frameworks for investment so that funds become more accessible for local beneficiaries at a Member State level.

Paniz addressed the importance of individual solutions that ensure lasting, local resilience. The principle of cascading provides an apt example of how forest resources can provide a local-based and sustainable energy solutions. After all, most pellets produced in Europe are made from wood residues and by-products of the wood-working industry. The main advantage of bioenergy technology is its ability to cover a wide range of appliances, as well as contributing to improved air quality across Europe. The correct and professional maintenance of biomass heating appliances is essential, with poor installation harbouring public district towards the entire sector. Once managed correctly by owners, appliances will ensure improve air quality and bioenergy maintains a central role in the energy transition.

Waciega notes that district heating plays an equally pivotal role in ensuring the provision of adaptive solutions, sensitive to local needs. In Poznań, Poland, Veolia is powering a local district heating plant and network with biomass (10% of the overall fuel supply) and is also diversifying low carbon energy sources by using waste heat from a nearby Volkswagen factory. This is a  perfect example of how low-carbon   sources can  ensure the smart and efficient use of local resources. The use of biomass in district heating has also been essential in significantly improving air quality in the city, which experienced a dramatic decrease in air pollutants: since 2010, six times less dust emissions, and seven times less SO2 emissions. Centralized district heating solutions enable the most dramatic reduction of quantity of particles matter in the air because of better combustion conditions and better secondary treatment of emissions. Indeed, heating boilers using biomass and connected to DHN have a controlled and complete combustion cycle and are equipped with systems for treating fumes and controlling particle emissions. Also the use of CHP might significantly increase the efficiency of energy production and thus decrease the ratio of emissions per primary energy.

Regulation will be instrumental in forging Europe’s transition away from fossil fuels and towards a greener future. The Switch4Air campaign supports this notion, dedicated to showcasing the communities that national initiatives that are pioneering energy efficiency through biomass projects that both improve air quality and drive the shift towards carbon neutrality. While there are many issues with this transition, both industry and policy agree that initiatives like the Renovation Wave are pivotal in sparking increased energy efficiency. With bioenergy set to play a central role in this energy transition, the sector must prepare itself to support both the European Commission and Member States as they work towards their ambitious climate targets.

For more information about the Swtich4Air campaign, visit the dedicated website.

Watch the webinar here.

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